Indonesia has been slow in granting forest tenure to indigenous peoples and local communities after an historic court ruling five years ago mandated that the government recognize their tenure rights.
A study released by the Rights and Resources Initiative (RRI) on Monday revealed that the total amount of land designated for indigenous peoples and local communities only grew from 0.22 million hectares in 2002 to 0.79 million in 2017. The total areas owned by local peoples only reached 0.01 million ha last year.
In the past 15 years, China made the most progress in forest-tenure recognition out of 13 Asian countries observed in the report, as it increased the area owned by indigenous peoples and local communities by about 21 million ha, reaching 124.3 million ha last year.
“Legislative rollbacks and stalled reform processes threaten to undermine the progress observed at the global level. Once-promising reforms [in Indonesia] have failed to deliver expected gains,” said the report, which was released ahead of the Global Climate Action Summit.
President Joko “Jokowi” Widodo granted hutan adat (customary forest) ownership certificates in December 2016 and October 2017, resulting in the recognition of ownership of over 8,801 ha of customary forests. The action marked the first implementation of a Constitutional Court ruling in 2013 that removed customary forests from state control as well as formalizing local peoples’ ownership.
The total area delivered to the people, however, is still very small compared with a total of 12.7 million ha targeted by the president. A draft law on indigenous people has been stalled as the executive and legislative branches of the government have not made it a priority.
Victoria Tauli-Corpuz, the UN Special Rapporteur on the Rights of Indigenous People, said the Indonesian government still lacked commitment to indigenous peoples. “In several arenas, [government officials] are the ones who have spoken against indigenous people, like at a high-level political forum on SDGs [sustainable development goals],” she said.
Tauli-Corpus also said the government should accelerate the process of the indigenous peoples law and establish a special body that ensured the delivery of the rights of indigenous people.
Titled “At a Crossroads: Consequential Trends in Recognition of the Community-based Forest Tenure from 2002-2017”, the RRI report monitored 48 low- and middle-income countries in Asia, Africa and Latin America. Indigenous peoples and local communities owned at least 418 million ha, or 15.2 percent, of the forestland in the regions and at least 70 million ha, or 2.5 percent, of the forest areas designated for them.
More than two-thirds of the forests in the countries, representing at least 1.9 billion ha, are administered by governments, and at least 140 million ha, or 5.1 percent, are privately owned by individuals and firms.
The RRI is a global coalition of more than 150 collaborating international, regional, and community organizations, which aims to advance the forestland and resource rights of indigenous peoples and local communities.